APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF VERMILION, NO. 98078. HONORABLE JULES D. EDWARDS, III DISTRICT JUDGE.
Calvin Eugene Woodruff, Jr., Cooper & Woodruff, Abbeville, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Vermilion Parish School Board.
Brian Francis Blackwell, Blackwell and Associates, Baton Rouge, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Kasha Lapointe.
Jimmy R. Faircloth, Jr., Christie C. Wood, Faircloth, Melton & Keiser, LLC, Alexandria, LA, COUNSEL FOR INTERVENOR/APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.
Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy Howard Ezell, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.
[14-919 La.App. 3 Cir. 1]
At issue in this case is whether Section 3 of Act 1 of the 2012 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature as it amends La.R.S. 17:443 is unconstitutional because it violates the due process rights of tenured public school teachers. For the following reasons, we find that Section 3 of Act 1 does violate the due process rights of tenured public school teachers to which they are entitled to under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, § 2 of the Louisiana Constitution.
Kasha LaPointe was employed by the Vermilion Parish School Board as a teacher. She was classified as a permanent, or tenured, teacher. By a letter dated Friday, August 16, 2013, Ms. LaPointe was informed by the superintendent of schools, Jerome Puyau, that a hearing was to be held on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, in his office to discuss charges of alleged willful neglect of duty and dishonesty. The letter informed her that she would have an opportunity to respond. The meeting was moved to August 22 in order to give Ms. LaPointe time to secure legal counsel.
After the meeting, Ms. LaPointe was advised by a letter dated September 9, 2013, that she was terminated effective the close of business on that day. The letter also advised her that she had seven days from receipt of the letter to apply for a tenure review panel.
By a letter dated September 16, 2013, Ms. LaPointe advised Mr. Puyau that she demanded a hearing with the review panel while contesting the constitutionality of Act 1. A hearing was held before the tenure hearing panel on October 8, 2013, where, by a vote of two to one, the panel concurred with the [14-919 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] decision of the superintendent to terminate Ms. LaPointe's employment. A letter dated October 11, 2013, informed Ms. LaPointe of this decision and advised her that she had sixty days to seek judicial review of the decision.
Ms. LaPointe then filed a petition for judicial review on December 10, 2013, against the Vermilion Parish School Board. She asked that Act 1 be declared unconstitutional and that any action taken by the Vermilion Parish School Board pursuant to Act 1 be declared null and void. She sought reinstatement and restoration to duty as a tenured teacher and ...